Andrew Davies has today extended his loan spell at Bradford City until the end of the season. On the eve of what is set to be a frantic month of transfer activity, it is unlikely the club will complete a better piece of business during the January window.
The Stoke defender had a stop-start beginning to life at Valley Parade, with two sendings off in his first four starts; but his return from the second suspension at the end of November has coincided with an upturn in league form and seen just one goal conceded in four League Two matches. As unfortunate as Davies was to pick up both red cards during October, doubts were expressed by some that he was too much of a liability to keep around. A series of outstanding displays on his return have firmly removed such fears.
Davies looks every inch a defender far too good for this league. Befitting a player from a Tony Pulis side, he has excelled at the physical stuff and also looks composed when making tackles. Comfortable in possession and displaying a commendable level of commitment, it is hard to imagine there is a finer centre back in this division. He and Luke Oliver have formed a rock solid partnership and appear to communicate with each other superbly. Conventional wisdom in football says that it takes time to develop such understandings between centre back pairings, and the biggest compliment you can pay Davies and Oliver is that they look as though they’ve been playing alongside each other for years.
It is perhaps curious why Davies would want to stay, given he could surely hold his own in the Championship instead. But if any managers from higher divisions were eyeing him up as a potential signing this January, City’s quickness in securing him until May has now ruled that out. Beyond that, it is difficult to imagine Davies signing permanently during the summer; but in the short-term he and Oliver will surely remain the first names on Parkinson’s team sheet.
Quite where this development leaves the Bantams’ other centre backs is open to debate. Guy Branston has recently returned to City from Rotherham, after injury curtailed his loan spell with the Millers. The summer signing might have fancied another shot at establishing himself at Valley Parade, but Branston would now appear less likely to be given an opportunity when fit again. Steve Williams has endured a very poor 2011 and has not featured since a disappointing second half display against Rotherham last November, after which he reacted badly enough to being left out for the next game at Gillingham that Parkinson didn’t feel he should even travel on the team bus. Marcel Seip – whose short-term deal runs out shortly – may also face an uncertain future, especially with left back Robbie Threlfall’s return from injury that should eventually see him recalled over the Dutchman.
Not including Seip, Parkinson looks set to make at least two signings in January. Ricky Ravenhill has expressed his desire to stay, while a proven goalscorer is top of the shopping list. With the squad already bulging in numbers, it seems inevitable several fringe players will depart either on loan or permanently to help the wage bill. Davies’ loan extension hints that Branston, Williams and Seip could be among those in line for a move away.
The long-term consequence of Davies remaining is that Parkinson will have to search for a first choice centre back during the summer; but in terms of City’s prospects for the rest of the season, they have been hugely strengthened by today’s bit of business. The window has not even officially opened and already it can be considered a huge success.